WASHINGTON —The Army has kicked off a major prototyping effort to develop what the service is calling its Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) by awarding an industry team a contract to build two demonstrators by fiscal year 2022.

Multiple industry teams competed for the contract to build the prototypes through a government-led effort and “were evaluated on their team’s experience, capabilities, proposed non-traditional defense contractor participation, and price,” according to Chris Ostrowski, the project manager for the NGCV at the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC).

And teams were allowed up to six members -- a team lead and five teammates, he added.

The Army awarded the contract to a team consisting of SAIC -- the team lead -- as well as Lockheed Martin, Moog Inc., GS Engineering, Inc., Hodges Transportation Inc. and Roush Industries, Ostrowski said.

The seven-year $700 million contract awarded to the SAIC-led team will ultimately produce two prototypes that must be completed by Sept. 30, 2022.

[Next-gen combat vehicle prototype efforts emerge]

While there are no formal Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) requirements for the NGCV prototyping effort because it’s ahead of a formal program, the effort is “looking to provide insights to the Army on the art of what’s possible,” Ostrowski said. “We have a set of attributes and desired capabilities.”

The vehicles will be designed to operate with a two-person crew and six soldiers “aka a split squad or fire team in the back,” he said.

The prototypes are also expected to have 50mm cannons, according to other Army officials.

The team will “exploit the latest enabling component technologies that have the potential to dramatically change basic combat vehicle design and improve lethality, protection, mobility, range and sustainment,” Ostrowski added.

TARDEC and the industry team will help inform future Army ground combat vehicle decisions as well as accelerate future efforts in acquisition and reduce developmental costs, Ostrowski said.

[What is the Next-Gen Combat Vehicle?]

The mix of traditional and non-traditional defense contractors on the team will hopefully “leverage the best in defense and automotive expertise and innovation to increase knowledge of available technologies, reduce risk to performance and cost and set conditions for accelerated development of a highly lethal and survivable vehicle that will ensure battlefield overmatch against potential adversaries,” according to Ostrowski.

SAIC has a long history as a systems integrator, Jim Scanlon, senior vice president of the company’s defense group, said, and so taking on the lead integrator role for the prototyping effort made sense.

The company has increasingly put its hat in the ring for U.S. Army and Marine Corps vehicle business. It is competing to build the Amphibious Combat Vehicle against BAE Systems for the Marine Corps and is planning to participate in the Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower competition, teaming up with ST Kinetics and CMI Defence to produce an offering. SAIC will serve as the lead integrator for that project.

The Army is taking great pains to ensure it gets it right this time. The service has a troubled history when it comes to building and buying brand new combat vehicles. Both the Future Combat System and the Ground Combat Vehicle were canceled after a great deal of investment.

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, lamented, when he was director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC), that this is the first time since World War I where the Army hasn’t had a new combat vehicle under development.

While the Army continues to upgrade its current combat vehicles fleet, starting from scratch on a new vehicle has its advantages.

“We are hoping to change the technologies that are available to us and we are going to change the set of requirements that drive design and I think that big changes that [Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley] has talked to us about are going to require changes in both those areas,” Maj. Gen. David Bassett, the Army’s program executive officer for combat systems, told Defense News.

“It will be some technologies that currently aren’t available and it will be some requirements tradeoffs that maybe, previously, we’ve been unwilling to make and so I think we are trying to keep an open mind about the full breadth of how those things might drive better lethality on the battlefield in the future,” he said.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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